The Race Project: 'People stop and ask me to interpret dreams for them'
Note from producer: The WYSO Race Project invites two everyday people from the Miami Valley to talk about their life experiences through the prism of skin color. These conversations can be difficult and controversial but also build understanding and healing. For this season's second episode, we have a conversation with Shane Creepingbear, who works at Antioch College, and Kaitlin Schroeder, who works at the Dayton YWCA.
Transcript (edited lightly for length and clarity)
Kaitlin Schroeder: Well, I'm Kaitlin Schroeder. I'm a marketing manager, and I live in West Dayton. I'm white, and I've lived in Dayton for about seven years.
Shane Creepingbear: Hi. My name is Shane Creepingbear. I'm an enrolled member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, but I'm also Pawnee, Arapaho, and Dutch Irish. I'm currently the dean of admission at Antioch College.
Kaitlin, when were you first aware of your race?
Kaitlin: Yeah, I actually can specifically remember. It was kindergarten in Ottawa, Ohio. That's where I grew up. There were mostly white, but there were also a lot of Latino kids—a micro population came in for the growing season.
I think I was probably staring at them.
And I think a lot about how I don't want my son to stare at kids when he gets a little older. I didn't have the words of race, and trying to tell my mom what I just experienced, but I can remember trying to describe that the girls in my group had different hair. I didn't know what to say. And I think a lot about it now that I have a son who's one, giving him the vocabulary from a much earlier age.
Shane: Yeah, I do a lot of that with my kids, too, trying to provide them with world context that I've learned as an adult. Maybe sometimes too much where they're like, 'Okay, dad, I don't need to hear about all this, or I don't understand what you're saying.'
Kaitlin: Shane, do you feel racism affects you daily or weekly?
Shane: Oh, boy. Yes, absolutely. When I hand over my debit card, somebody sees my last name, comments on it, or tells me about their 1/60th Cherokee ancestry.
Kaitlin: Oh no!
Shane: I'll be pumping gas with a baby crying, and they'll stop and ask me to interpret dreams for them.
Shane: It's honestly wild. I pointed it out to my kids because it started happening to me very early on in my life. At this point, it's almost comical. I'll hand my debit card over, and somebody will say 'Creepingbear'? Then I'll catch the kids making eye contact with me, like, 'Here we go.'
And it's hard to parse because I'll have people ask me for advice, like if they're writing something because they're not sure if this is sensitive.
There's part of that that is tokenizing, or it's like, I'm probably the only native person you know. So you're asking me. But, on the other hand, I have something valuable I can explain to you about this.
Kaitlin: How do you feel about the term microaggression? Some people have been pushing back on that term lately, saying that 'micro' is so diminutive when it grinds at your life.
Shane: I'm not a big fan of the term. I think the purpose was to make racism more approachable to white people who react defensively or personally to these conversations. Subtle as it can be, it's still just racism. It's systemic. Just call it what it is. Let's learn from it and move on.
Kaitlin: Is there anyone you now see in the media that you're like, 'I wish this character had been around when I was growing up.'
Shane: Yeah, I was watching one of these Western shows, I think 'Yellowstone' or something, where they're interacting with native populations. At one point, I was watching this show, and my eyes were glued and wide open, and seeing all these native actors on screen threw me for a loop. Almost.
Kaitlin: Did the volume of folks in one show have an effect? Since there were multiple people, you didn't have to be like, 'Do I identify with the native guy or not? '
Shane: Yes. That's insightful because, yeah, that's it. It wasn't like it was just this tokenized character.
Kaitlyn, thank you so much for this conversation. I appreciate your openness and honesty.
Kaitlin: Yeah. Shane, thank you so much for this conversation. I thought it was a great conversation. I appreciate you.
The music you heard in this episode comes from the Yellow Springs mult-instrumental collective (Nine Three Seven) off their album Monday.
If you'd like to participate in a future episode of The Race Project, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org